Tables groan with Thanksgiving fare for troops in Afghanistan

American troops dish out a Thanksgiving Day meal at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2015. Nearly 10,000 American servicemembers remain in the country.


By JOSH SMITH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 26, 2015

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Long lines of American servicemembers arriving for a Thanksgiving meal at dining halls here on Thursday were greeted by surreal scenes of eagle-shaped ice sculptures, dioramas of Pilgrims and Native Americans and contractors in turkey costumes.

In a bid to make troops feel a little bit of home on the Thanksgiving holiday, dining halls went all out with lavish meals of roast turkey, ham, prime rib and tables piled high with pies and turkey-shaped cakes.

Troops said their jaws dropped as they saw the loaded tables.

“The food was definitely better than every other day,” said Airman 1st Class John Ross, a 23-year-old native of Mountain Home, Idaho. About 10,000 American servicemembers remain in Afghanistan. A stubborn insurgency challenging Afghan forces has delayed plans to withdraw almost all those troops by next year.

Coalition allies also seemed to enjoy the holiday fare and over-the-top decorations. “I think the Polish were into it more than the Americans,” Ross said.

Some troops braved a muddy field full of puddles, rocks, and the occasional metal stake to play a game of touch football.

Some young airmen on their first deployments said, despite the limited festivities, it felt like any other day.

“I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving since I joined the Air Force three years ago,” said Senior Airman Kyle Maldonado, 22. Back home in Tucson, Ariz., his wife and two-year-old daughter are celebrating with family. “The wife’s not really feeling this being apart for the holidays, but it’s what I have to do.”

A half-dozen members of Congress arrived to eat with servicemembers from their home states. They were: Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Reps. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, Phil Roe, R-Tenn., Mark Takano, D-Calif., Mike Coffman, R-Colo., Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., and Ralph Abraham, R-La.

Twitter: @joshjonsmith

A contractor dressed in a turkey suit greets servicemembers at a dining hall at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 2015. Other contractors dressed as Pilgrims and Native Americans.

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